White House will not push for two-state solution in Middle East | News | DW | 15.02.2017
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White House will not push for two-state solution in Middle East

Washington has signaled a major shift with regards to its support of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The reversal came on the eve of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit to the White House.

The comments came ahead of US President Donald Trump's meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday at the White House.

Trump supports peace between Israelis and Palestinians, even if the peace deal does not come in the form of a two-state solution, a White House official said on Tuesday.

The senior official said the US will no longer attempt to "dictate" the terms of any future peace agreement, but would support what the two sides agree together.

"Whether that comes in the form of a two-state solution if that's what the parties want, or something else," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

The official said Netanyahu and Trump were likely to discuss the expansion of Israeli settlements and potentially moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In response on Wednesday, Husam Zomlot, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, expressed surprise that a peace deal may not come in the form of a two-state solution. The "two-state solution is not something we just came up with," he remarked.

The White House official said rebooting the Middle East peace process was a high priority and that he hoped to bring Israelis and Palestinians together soon. Trump has also given his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the task of negotiating a peace deal.

Break with policy

Should Trump fail to explicitly back a two-state solution to the conflict, it would upend decades of US policy embraced by both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations.

The policy is also at the core of international peace efforts to resolve the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Weakened support for eventual Palestinian statehood could also upset Muslim-majority countries, including Sunni Arab allies.

Netanyahu won re-election in 2015 by insisting he would not accept the creation of a Palestinian state, a promise that substantially strained relations with the President Barack Obama's administration.

In an interview with DW, Nora Müller, a Middle East expert with the Berlin-based non-profit Körber Foundation, warned about jumping to conclusions based on Trump's rhetoric:

"I would be cautious about whether the Trump administration could really follow through with a departure from the two-state solution," said Müller.

She pointed out the difference between some things Trump said on the campaign trail and the reality of what he could actually do.

Müller characterized the move as a "welcome gift for Netanyahu," who had a tense relationship with the Obama administration over the expansion of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

rs/rc,jm    (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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